Prior to doing a show, we receive lots of well-wishes for a good show, a successful show, a profitable show. After the show, we’re asked how it went, how was attendance, were people buying. In response to these questions, it is important to keep in mind that what may be a fair, good, or great show to one person, may be a bad, poor, or crappy show to another person.
As they say, your mileage may vary.
What makes a good show? For me it is more than just the revenue. That’s not to say that the revenue isn’t important. I’m grateful for every purchase made by a customer and for every name added to my mailing list. Yet, I also like to think about what I learned from a show; about my booth, my sales technique, the conversations I had, the comments that were made, and so on.
Was the Paradise City show a good show? Yes; or as a friend put it “reasonable.” Did I cover my expenses? No, not all of them. Did I make a profit? No; but sales were much better than when I did this same show over Memorial Day weekend, 2007.
Here is how the expenses of this show broke down:
Booth fee: $820.00 for a 10 x 10 space.
Electric: $70.00 for 500 watts
Pipe and drape rental: $92.93 which includes a fourth pipe across the front of the booth for stability.
Lodging for three nights: $333.96 which includes taxes and a hot/cold continental breakfast each day.
Food during the weekend: $44.23
Grand total: $1,400.40
This does not include the money I spent prior to the show on risers which also double as storage for inventory, the Dynamic Display pedestal, the acrylic frames which hold descriptions of various pieces (and are sometimes sold with the piece of art), or the booth lights.
So if I didn’t make a profit and didn’t cover all my expenses, how can I say that this was a good show?
Because of the people I met and the connections I made.
I met people who giggled when they saw my work. Who “ooh’d” and “ahh’d” when they opened a vessel or held a sculpture or read the story about a piece of work.
I met art teachers and art therapists with whom I shared tips and techniques about polymer clay.
I met an older gentleman who asked me probing and thoughtful questions about my work; its origin, the spiritual basis, the chosen shapes, and the inspiration.
I met other polymer clay artists and enthusiasts.
I met people who bought a piece of my art for a friend battling cancer, for a friend graduating, for a daughter pursuing a degree, for the new house, and for themselves.
I made new customers/collectors and recognized several others who stopped by my booth to say hi. Some brought their friends and would describe to them my work; how boxes opened with quotes inside them.
And I met other wonderful artists who were also selling at this show.
I know it is hard to stay positive when doing a show. You have 150 or 300 artists all competing for the same audience. You see people visiting other artist’s booths and your booth is empty. People may comment that they are “only looking” because they can’t spend the money (really, you don’t need to explain yourself to me; I’m just glad you came.) I had my down moments and would have to psych myself up again.
But one of the reasons I enjoy doing this show is for those connections. When we make and sell our art, we are giving a little piece of ourselves to the buying public. When we make a connection with a customer/collector, we are giving a piece of ourselves to them.
Forgive me if I sound all “pollyannish” but I do believe the attitude we take into a show will be reflected when we’re doing the show. I’ve observed artists who leave their booths for extended periods of time and miss potential sales. I’ve had artists come into my booth (or have been in another artist’s booth) and listened to their complaints. And it can be hard not to join in the complaining.
The Paradise City Arts Festival is not an inexpensive show for an artist and I completely understand each artist’s desire to do his or her best, to meet their expenses, and to make a profit. We all have similar goals. Yet it is important when doing a show to keep in mind not only the monetary economics but the intangible economics as well; the people you meet, the overall environment, and the connections you make.